Beyond the Beach: Where to Make Waves in Prince Edward County 🎣 🛶 ⛵
By Karen Orme
Sandwiched between Lake Ontario and the Bay of Quinte, with many rivers and lakes running through it, Prince Edward County is all about water, with more than 800 km of shoreline and tons of H20-based ways to enjoy it.
Here are a few beyond-the-beach ideas for water-playing your way around The County.
Prince Edward County was once a peninsula, until construction of the Murray Canal swing bridge in Carrying Place severed it from the main land. Sight-seeing by water offers a unique view — and is just as beautiful as from the land. It’s the perfect way to see birds and marine wildlife up close.
Easy Paddler: Cabin Fever Kayak, a new non-motorized boat rental operation, sets you afloat in a kayak, canoe or stand-up paddle board on picturesque Black River, with only the sounds and sights of nature as your companion. Wonderfully relaxing, it’s an eco-friendly way to explore coastal marshes and bucolic vistas. Paddle the meandering waterway six kilometres southwest into the nearby town of Milford. Head east into the waters of South Bay for a close-up of McMahon Bluffs, a protected nature reserve.
Bonus: Cabin Fever Kayak’s watercraft are made and sold in The County by Demorestville-based Clearwater Design. So, if you liked the test paddle, check them out, and take one home.
Cruise Around: Hop on board with Picton Harbour Pontoon Tours for a 90-minute guided excursion of Picton Bay’s shorelines, shallow coves, natural habitats, hidden waterfalls and more. Tours accommodate up to six guests and are dog-friendly.
Hoist the Sails
Pull up anchor, raise the sails and catch the breeze. Sailing is a fun, often invigorating way, to enjoy The County by water.
Aye Aye Captain: Departing from Waupoos Marina, Stay and Sail offers private and group cruises (up to eight guests) aboard the Tzarina, a 34-ft. C&C sailboat. Captains Moira and Brent offer several cruising options, from a two-hour sail around the waters of South Bay to half and full-day excursions that include anchoring for swimming, snacks and light refreshments. There’s also a four-hour cruise that covers sailing basics.
Not ready to jump ship? Then spend the night, lulled to sleep by the gentle roll of the water, in one of two sailboats that Stay and Sail rents out as accommodation. Both are docked in the Waupoos Marina.
Wind And Water: Try a different kind of sail with AirTime Kiteboarding. The four-year-old company, based out of a private beach on West Lake near the Sandbanks, helps you harness wind power with kiteboarding lessons and rentals. Catamaran lessons and rentals are also available.
Hook, Line, and Sinker
Cast your line – and your luck – into the waters of Prince Edward County. Not only is Lake Ontario a plentiful fishing ground, but the Bay of Quinte – the Walleye Capital of the World — is an angler’s dream.
For Charter: Fish with the pros who know the waters and where and when and what to catch . Meal On A Reel Charters and Bay of Quinte Charters are just two of several fishing specialists who can help you hook walleye, salmon, lake trout, pickerel, bass and perch. Charter season runs May through to late November. Rods, bait, tackle, beverages and food are provided. All you need to bring is a valid fishing licence. For more charters, fishing and boating advice, see our complete listings.
Gear Up: Whether you arrived in The County rod-less, or just need bait, Wilki’s Tackle Box has every angler’s back, from novice to pro, with everything from rods and reels to minnows and worms. Canadian Tire in Picton is a reliable go-to as well. Not only is the fishing-gear department well stocked, but you can pick up a fishing licence if you don’t have one. There’s also plenty of other equipment to float a fun day on the water, from boats to inflatable toys.
Whether you’re a resident boater without a home dock, or a sail-in, motor-up or haul-your-own-watercraft visitor, The County has “boat parking” and several public launches. Pull up to the following locations:
Marina Moorings: In addition to offering public boat launches, Picton Marina and Harbour, Waupoos Marina and Wellington Harbour provide overnight and seasonal docking with access to hydro and water, fuel, washrooms and showers, and pump-out facilities (Picton and Waupoos only). The Glenora Marina is an excellent stop for fuel, rentals and repairs.
Float Your Boat: There are also eight municipal boat launches conveniently located around The County’s most popular bodies of water. Sites include Big Island, East Lake, Northport, Prinyer’s Cove, Rossmore, Weller’s Bay, and Wellington Beach.
Non-motorized watercraft have launching options, too. Many are located in conservation parks, including H.J. McFarland, Little Bluff (closed until further notice), Massassauga Point and Milford Mill Pond. For a small fee, non-motorized boat owners can also park-and-launch their watercraft onto the Black River from Cabin Fever Kayak.
Ahoy Sailors: Sail into Prince Edward Yacht Club and dock awhile. Located on picturesque Picton Harbour, downtown Picton’s restaurants, shops and art galleries are within easy strolling distance. Guests from other sailing clubs enjoy reciprocal docking privileges.
If you feel the need for speed, or just want to have fun swimming and playing in water without the beach, The County has loads of different strokes for different folks.
Water Toys: Slip, slide, ride, glide, paddle, ski … have fun! That’s what it’s all about at Westlake Watersports, a one-stop-shopping water-play provider. Rent a pontoon boat or Sea Doo for a day of touring West Lake and quick access to the Dunes beach for swimming and a picnic. There are also kayaks and paddle boards for hire.
Feeling a bit more water-adventurous? Catch some air with a flyboard, jet pack or jet skis. Kids (and the kid in all of us) love Westlake Willy Waterpark, an awesome water playground of giant inflatables, including a mega-sized obstacle course.
Ride The Wake: Westlake Wakeboard School boasts that, under their tutelage, even first-time wakeboarders get upright on the water. In addition to wakeboarding lessons and rentals, the company offers banana boat and tubing rides and beach transfers. You can also rent kayaks, canoes, paddle boats and SUP boards, by the hour or the day.
Kid-perfect: Sand-and-surfed out, but the water-babies are still clamouring for a good soaking? Try the nautical-themed Picton Splash Pad, located at the Picton Fairgrounds, adjacent to the glorious Crystal Palace. You can even picnic there, with bring-your-own grub, or grab takeout from Big Mama’s Canteen (on site) or across the street at Angry Birds, PEC’s answer to Swiss-Chalet-St. Hubert.
Chlorinated Water: If a pool is your preferred swimming hole, cannonball into Prince Edward County Fitness & Aquatic Centre’s indoor junior-Olympic size pool for a small fee. Public swimming hours are Monday through Saturday, 1 p.m. to 3 p.m., and Tuesday evenings 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. When summer temps soar beyond the norm, the facility opens up its Beat the Heat free public swimming program.
There are also many ways to appreciate PEC’s marine beauty without dipping toes, rods, paddles, sails or motors into the water. Here are a few land-lubber options:
Art Inspiration: From June 26 – August 28, it’s all about Water in The Back Room at Arts on Main Gallery in Picton. The curated exhibit pays homage to the element of water and features more than 25 multi-medium pieces from the gallery’s local artist members.
Wellington Water Week celebrates bodies of blue with world-class music and art in the glorious surroundings of our local Great Lakes. Programming highlights include chamber, choral, pop and live film music and community-driven events, featuring Sarah Slean, Opus 8, Bryan Cheng, Dominic Desautels, Danika Lorèn and many more. Runs August 17-25.
Marine Museum-hopping: Explore The County’s symbiotic relationship with the waters that surround it at two great museums. Located in South Bay, Mariners Park Museum, with its distinctive lighthouse and recreated circa-War of 1812 fort, is home to many recovered shipwreck treasures and tales of fishing, ship-building, rum-running and more.
The Naval Marine Archive: The Canadian Collection in downtown Picton celebrates marine and naval history. The museum houses an art gallery, ship models and plans, books and nautical papers, charts and more.
On The Menu: A County dining must-try is the local, fresh-water catch-of-the-day, often perch or pickerel. And, of course, all food tastes better enjoyed with a side of waterfront!
Check out these restaurants for their beautiful waterscape panoramas, all unique in their own way: County Cider Company (Lake Ontario), Drake Devonshire Inn (Lake Ontario), The Lighthouse Restaurant (Picton Harbour), The Restaurant at Waupoos Winery (Lake Ontario), The Restaurant on the Knoll at Isaiah Tubbs (West Lake), and The View at Picton Golf and Country Club (Picton Bay).
For classic County-caught fish and chips, try Sand & Pearl, voted one of Canada’s best new restaurants by en Route magazine and a smorgasbord of delights from the sea.
Wine and Water: New this year is the Backstage Tour and Lunch from The Old Third Vineyard. Starting at the winery, enjoy a VIP experience for four to six people with an exclusive tour of select County producers and artisans, including wineries, farms and galleries. The outing culminates with a specially prepared, locally inspired lunch served in Lake Ontario, atop a limestone slab outcrop at the home of Bruno Francois, The Old Third’s winemaker.